If you want to try some Japanese street food without having to fly off to Japan, you should meander along St. Mark’s area in the East Village. There you will find a plethora of quaint little shops offering a variety of these foods like, Yakitori, Sushi, Ramen, Japanese Barbecue, Japanese comfort food, snacks, and desserts.
A couple of staples of Japanese street food are Takoyaki and Okonomiyaki. Takoyakis are spherical snacks made of wheat based batter typically stuffed with bits of octopus, cooked in a specially made cast iron pan (much like a savory waffle), brushed with Takoyaki sauce and mayonnaise, and topped with green onion and shaved dried bonito . Okonomyakis are basically savory pancakes filled with ingredients of your choice – typically shrimp, octopus, squid, vegetables, meat, seafood, etc. More like an omelet or frittata than pancake, it’s topped with a variety of condiments like sweet sauce (Okonomi Sauce), mayonnaise, dried seaweed and dried fish flakes. While they may not sound so appetizing, they are actually delicious. Slightly crispy on the outside and soft in the inside, with a creamy, sweet, salty flavor full of umami. In a word – YUM!
Found along E 9th Street, just west of 2nd Avenue is Otafuku Medetai, a small shop offering Medetai (a fish shaped pastry made of wheat flour batter traditionally filled with red bean), Okonomiaki, Takoyaki, and Yakisoba (sautéed noodles). This is the place to go if you would like to sample these goodies.
If you have not sampled these traditional snack foods before, it is best to try their combination dishes which gives you the bigger bang for your buck. We tried combos C & D. The former is a combination of Takoyaki and Yakisoba and the latter is a combo of Okonomiyaki and Yakisoba. As you can see there is a lot of food in each order, so much so that two people can share in one.
A couple of caveats – they take only cash, and there is no seating in the store, so if you want to give them a try, bring money and ask for a bag so you can bring your meal around the corner to the park in front of St. John’s University on 3rd Avenue for some al fresco dining.